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The year was 2006. Fred Litwin couldn’t help noticing that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 was playing all over his hometown of Ottawa – “in the main cinemas, in the repertory cinemas, on campus, and it was the talk of TV. I couldn’t escape it.”
Then he learned about a documentary called Michael Moore Hates America, made by a relatively unknown filmmaker named Mike Wilson. “I asked a local rep cinema if they would bring it in, since his film was not available on DVD. They quickly replied that they wouldn’t.” So Litwin decided to bring it to Ottawa himself.
This was not his line of work. He had an MBA in finance, and over the years had worked in various business enterprises in New York, Britain, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In 2000 he had retired to start his own successful music label, NorthernBlues.
Over the years his politics had shifted. A socialist during his student days, he was moved after 9/11 by David Horowitz’s The Politics of Bad Faith. The left’s hysteric response to 9/11 bewildered him. “I could hardly believe hearing people questioning whether Bin Laden was behind it or whether the US had it coming. I couldn’t be part of that. And, when I started seeing some of my liberal friends abandon Israel during the second Intifada – a time when suicide bombers were regularly killing people in Israel – I then completely moved to the right.”
Thus his response to the ubiquity of Fahrenheit 9/11, and his desire to get a look at Michael Moore Hates America. Litwin knew little about organizing film screenings, but he made some calls. Finally he paid $400 to rent a small theater in the St. Laurent shopping mall. By this point, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West had come out, and Litwin thought it might be a good idea to start off with that one instead. “I rented the cinema for a January 2007 showing and I was off to the races.”
Well, not really. Before the screening could take place, the manager of the theater he’d rented pulled out. Why? She’d received an e-mail – exactly one – from a retired professor saying that the film was offensive to Muslims. “That was enough for them to cancel it.” But Litwin turned lemons into lemonade: the cancellation made headlines in the Ottawa Sun, he ended up showing it elsewhere, and the turnout was impressive. “I should have sent that retired professor some chocolates.”
That was just the beginning of what Litwin dubbed the Free Thinking Film Society, a venue for politically incorrect films that would otherwise never get shown in Ottawa theaters – films about topics like radical Islam, free speech, support for Israel and opposition to Communism. Among the films he has screened, often at the Library & Archives Canada, have been Che: Anatomy of a Myth; The Monster among Us, about anti-Semitism in Europe; Not Evil, Just Wrong, on global warming hysteria; UN Me, a critical look at the UN; and Crossing West, about North Korea.
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